Peter Crouch often felt more pressure to impress Steven Gerrard than Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.
Less than two months after Liverpool completed an unforgettable comeback to win the Champions League, Peter Crouch put pen to paper on a move from Southampton.
Having scored 16 goals for the Saints the previous season, Crouch came to Anfield with a reputation for regular aerial threats, solid hold-up play and surprisingly good feet for a big man.
It took a while for Crouch to score his first goal for Liverpool but when he did, the pressure lifted and he began to fully buy into the Reds way of playing under Rafa Benitez but it was the presence of Steven Gerrard that had the greatest impact on the 6ft 7in forward.
“When you walk into that dressing room at Liverpool – my performance went up, everyone’s performance went up,” Crouch said on BT Sport.
"For me, the best player pretty much every day was Steven Gerrard."
"At times I found myself trying to impress Stevie instead of Rafa!"
Love this from @petercrouch on how standards set in training can force players to raise their game 💪
That death-stare sounds terrifying 👀 pic.twitter.com/TmYeEk5JLI
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 29, 2021
“Because that death stare from Stevie, when he raps the ball into you and you don’t keep it… it just takes you a level up. It took my game up tenfold.”
Crouch, who cost £7 million, witnessed players much more expensive than him wilt under the expectations of Gerrard at Liverpool.
In the same way that Roy Keane used to test new arrivals at Man United by firing balls into their feet, Gerrard and Jamie Carragher would put new signings through their paces at Liverpool’s training ground and immediately dismiss them if they didn’t match the standard expected.
“Honestly, I saw players go under,” Crouch continued. “Really go under. Because you know what Stevie and Carra are like – within the first training session, they are writing £20 million players off. It’s a ruthless game – it’s sink or swim!
“I wanted to succeed so badly at that club… At times I felt myself trying to impress Stevie more than Rafa.”
Crouch scored 42 goals in his three years with Liverpool before returning to Portsmouth in 2008.
The towering centre-forward developed a fantastic relationship with Gerrard who, throughout his career, managed to get the best out of several strikers such as Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres.
“We did get a good understanding,” Crouch said of Gerrard. “It definitely took my game up so much – and it was sort of one player dragging people up and making their games better by his demeanour, the way he trained, the way he was around the place. He lifted the whole club.”